ANC fighters should have retired in 1994 – Ramphele

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ANC freedom fighters should have retired with houses and pensions before the first democratic elections in 1994 and left the rest of the country to build a democracy, Mamphela Ramphele has said.

“The mistake we made in 1994, no, in 1993 already, is that we should have thanked the warriors of our struggles, decorated them with gold, given them huge pensions and houses, and let them go so that we can build a democratic government dispensation,” Ramphele said at the launch of the Helen Suzman Foundation’s exhibition at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg last night.

Ramphele, a struggle stalwart and former managing director of the World Bank, has recently founded the Citizen Movement for Social Change.

She said “no single liberation movement, including the Russian Communist Party, has been able to transform into a democratic party”.

This was impossible. “The mindset is diametrically opposed to the mindset needed in a democracy.”

Ramphele said democracy was about defending the right of your opponent to differ from you, but “in a liberation movement you have to close ranks”.

The ANC, she said, had not made the change to democracy.

“The ANC has not transformed into what the Constitution requires, including having a civil service that’s independent from political leadership.”

Ramphele said South Africans “underestimated what it would take to transform from subjects to citizens”, and it’s in part also the failure of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) for not teaching people how to make a real choice.

Ramphele said she was “no longer filled with pride, more with anxiety, and on a bad day with anger”.

But she said anger was not a useful emotion, so it was better to “swallow it” and mobilise.

She took a sideswipe at President Jacob Zuma’s pronouncements on the justice system last week by saying when those who should be one of the cornerstones and defenders of this system are criticising the system, “be afraid”.

Ramphele, who was a friend of Suzman, said Suzman ensured that democracy could flourish, and her work should be continued.

Suzman, who died on January 1 2009, would have been 95-years-old yesterday.

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